A plan to make staying away from school a city ordinance violation ran into criticism at the Evanston Human Services Committee meeting this week.

Community activist Betty Sue Ester objected to involving police with the problem of trying to keep children in school.

“Once a child touches that department there’s a record, it’s put into the system somewhere,” Ester said, suggesting it could come back to haunt youngsters later if they try to get into college or as they pursue a career.

“There’s no criminal law that you have to be in school every day, you don’t go to jail for that, so why are they being handed over to the police department?” she added.

Ester, of 2030 Church St., who’s long been active in police-community relations issues, said, “Unless you can give parents a good reason, this is a bad ordinance to even consider. Look at the kids this is going to be hitting, we’re talking about minority, black males.”

The proposed ordinance, developed by a group called the Evanston Restorative Justice Committee, met a cool reception from aldermen when it was discussed at the Human Services Committee in July.

It’s scheduled to be on the committee’s agenda again when it meets in January. The committee chairman, Alderman Lionel Jean-Baptiste said he hoped “all the parties will be here to engage in debate” about the ordinance then.

The proposed ordinance would make chronic truants subject to a fine of up to $100 and would permit school officials to issue violation notices.

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‘Stay in school’ law stays in committee

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. Terrible idea
    I agree with Ms. Ester. This is a terrible idea. Is the city that desperate for cash that it needs to consider going down this route? The city MUST make cutbacks. In my opinion, government greed is the ugliest type of greed.

  2. Stay in school
    Betty Sue, as a regular participant in police-community relation issues, and others(attorney Jean-Baptiste) surely must know juvenile records, no matter how severe, are completely expunged once the minor reaches the age of consent. Therefore, trivial matters, such as a citation for truancy, most certainly will not affect students from attending college or pursuing careers. On the contrary, their continued nonattendance from school most likely will. As we all know those not attending school often find themselves in situations that are much more severe than truancy. Lastly, why would Betty Sue think this would only affect young black males? Is she suggesting they are only ones that are truant? As a resident of the 5th Ward, and a parent of two teen boys I am offended. I would like to know what options she proposed. What solution does she have to force both students and parents to be responsible? As a minority community we must stop finding excuses, laying blame, and acting as victims. Teach our children to be responsible and accountable for their actions, and we will see change.

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